Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Summer Research at Pitzer College

Robert Little – San Francisco, CA

If you’re a high school student reading this, the chances are that you can’t appreciate the deluge of emails that plagues Pitzer students daily.  It’s kind of overwhelming.  Pitzer is a member of a five undergraduate consortium, has hundreds of clubs, dozens of professional offices, thousands of students…and all parties involved want YOU to be aware of their opinions, events, musings, and funny YouTube clips.  Counting the emails I get from students, I probably sift through over 150 – 250 emails, most of which, you can probably guess are junk.  Headings like, “Lost Giraffe Sweatshirt at Deathrection Rage Sesh on Friday at Grove” and “Lost Chameleon” are often mildly interesting, but ultimately consume too much of my time.  However, mixed in with a plethora of “LOST ID” emails and such come incredible fellowship, grant, internship, and job opportunities.

Last semester, one of the hundred and some emails that reached my inbox helped me land the most incredible summer experience I could ask for.  Emails with the subject “Summer Research – Apply Now!” were all too common in my inbox, but upon skimming lines such as “EA Majors,” and “International projects may include up to an additional $2,500 in expenses,” I became mildly interested.  With a few quick phone calls and emails, I decided to apply for a fellowship funded by the “Andrew Mellon Grant” awarded to Harvey Mudd College.  This fellowship, open to all EA (environmental analysis) majors provided a select number of students the opportunity to conduct their own independent, self designed research in the US or abroad as long as it related to the environment.

No less then two weeks later, I had written and polished a request for funding to study sachet water use in Ghana over the summer of 2013.  A few weeks later, I was notified that my funding was approved.  I had the administration’s backing – an engineering college pledging their support and a hefty stipend to a sophomore at a nearby school whose only visits to their campus were complete scouting missions for late night pizza. 

The rest is history; I spent a total of seven weeks in Ghana over the summer.  I conducted autonomous research, bounced from sketchy hostel to hostel all over the country, moving whenever I pleased.  The research I conducted was pre-approved by the Pitzer Institutional Review Board (IRB) and I hope to get it published within the next year.  Most shocking is that I was paid to do this!  It’s going to be really difficult to top this past summer.

The point I want to illustrate, however, is not how cool my summer was (although it was freakin’ INCREDIBLE), but that Pitzer offers an incredible number of resources that you can access from your laptop while in bed.  It’s impossible to capture from a marketing standpoint, but the bottom line is that organizations within and outside Pitzer recognize Pitzer students as motivated, bright, interesting individuals.  Pitzer’s the unique combination of a group of students, faculty, and staff that are intellectually gifted and want to make the world a better place, coupled with one of the most resource-rich network a student can gain access to (assuming they check their email).

Although my story may be unique on the surface, the principal of it remains true for most students here: we do our best inside the classroom in hopes that we can have a real impact outside it.

No comments: